The Peanuts Movie

I was thinking…

…how often film makers attempt to make a movie for children but actually end up making a film for themselves or, at the very least, a movie for the parents who are stuck in the theater with their kids.

The Peanuts Movie is a prime example of this type of movie. As a matter of fact, the showing I attended was attended only by other adults. Not a pipsqueak in the place.

The pipsqueaks missed out.

The Peanuts Movie encompasses several of the most recognizable story lines written by creator Charles M. Schulz. Most prominent of which is the long-running tale of unrequited love. Charlie Brown, that most beloved of blockheads, is smitten with the little red-haired girl who has just moved in across the street. Determined to win her heart, he embarks on numerous schemes to impress her.

Enlisted in his aid are the wise-beyond-his-years Linus van Pelt and the adorable scamp known as Snoopy the beagle.

Snoopy, while helping his well-meaning master, is also intent on writing the great American novel about his most famous of alter-egos, the World War I flying ace.

I was an avid reader of the Peanuts comic strip during my formative years and my older brother and I owned an extensive set of the collected works. And no Christmas was (or still is) complete without a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Peanuts Movie, thankfully, stayed as true to the feel of those original stories as could be expected.

The animators, Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age), were so intent on exuding that same feel in their work they “kinda had to break the computer in order to make the movie.” Scrutinizing Charles Schulz original strip, they realized even the slightest variation of what would initially (and incorrectly) be considered ‘simple’ drawings, would render the characters nearly unrecognizable.

They also animated “on two’s,” meaning they returned to a more traditional form of animation most prevalent in stop-motion. Instead of producing 24 separate successive images to produce a single second of animation as is the standard for computer animation, they used only 12 separate frames and doubled up on each frame in order to produce one second of film. This results in a slightly choppier, less smooth sense of movement, but one that more closely mimics the work done on the Peanuts cartoons from the 1960’s.

And like those nostalgic of all cartoons, this film opens with the familiar strains of Vince Guaraldi’s jazz trio music. The wire brushed snare drum, piano and double bass instantly transport one to a simpler time and place. A time when children played outside without fear or care and a place where adults talked with the sound of a muted trumpet.

As for the voices of the Peanuts gang, they were extremely well chosen. Each seemed to have been selected to best duplicate the sounds of the original cast from 50 years ago. Snoopy, as a matter of fact, is voiced by none other than Bill Melendez, that lovable dog’s original vocal talent. This is an impressive feat, considering the fact that ol’ Handlebar ‘Stache Bill passed away seven years ago.

But perhaps the most wonderful strengths of The Peanuts Movie lie in its moral message and its ability to make one feel like a kid again. Those are, after all, the two things at which the Peanuts gang were best.

There was, however, a slight pacing problem that had me thinking even the most patient of children would have been squirming in their seats about halfway through. And some of the musical pop selections were a little too contemporary to make the film truly timeless.

But, overlooking those rather minor imperfections, the movie deserves a well-earned place in my movie collection…just a shelf away from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Ammo Dump rating: 9 out of 10 tree-eaten kites

I’ll talk more about this film and others during my (every once in a while) radio show. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on or the “Rdio” app on your smart phone. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @ALphaEXray to find out when I’ll be on the air.

The Peanuts Movie
Rated G
Run time: 93 minutes



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